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Last Updated on:  12/16/2015 04:00 PM

Joy Blooms in the Garden

Joy Blooms  -- Compost It

Everything you ever wanted to know about composting:  Let's get Started   
Basic How-To    Tip & Tricks
    FAQ     Build a Bin     What's In?     Brown & Green    
Now What?     What's went Wrong    Unusual Compost Items      Say It Ain't So     
Composting Learning Resources & Supplies

Last Edited on:  12/16/2015 08:07 AM

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What Goes In?  What Stays Out?
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What can I compost?
  • DO Compost yard waste such as grass clippings, fallen leaves, weeds before they go to seed, tree fruit and berries and the remains of disease-free garden plants.  These make excellent compost.  You can also compost kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels and trimmings, eggshells, teabags, coffee grounds and filters.  Woody yard waste like branches and brush can be used as well in limited amounts as long as they are cut into smaller pieces.
  • Do NOT compost meat, bones, grease, fat or fatty foods like cheese, salad dressing or leftover cooking oil.  Animal products may attract pests and they will contribute to odor problems.  Ask yourself if the item you are about to toss in the compost has toxins or it it is diseased or if it might sprout?  If the answer is "YES", or if you are in doubt, DON'T add it to the pile.
Toss these in Compost:
  • GRASS/LAWN CLIPPINGS:  Fresh grass clippings are high in nitrogen and as a results make a good 'green' compost ingredient. My personal preference is not to put grass clippings in the compost.  I don't bag them when I mow.  Instead, I leave them on the lawn.  Here the glass clippings naturally decompose and enrich the soil.   If you decide to compost them, do so cautiously. 

The biggest mistake made by those who do put grass clippings in the compost is to pile them too high where they tend to become slimy and clump together.  Because this excludes air from the pile, it stinks.  It is better to add thin layers or to mix them thoroughly with other composted materials.

  • HAY & STRAW:  I honestly don't know where one finds hay in a urban setting, do you?  Perhaps farmers will sell or give you spoiled hay bales. Be careful of the kind of "hay" you put in the compost.  For example, grass hay  contains seed heads.  Alfalfa hay, on the other hand, is good & will readily compost. Remember, green hay has a higher level of nitrogen.

Did you buy a straw bale as a Halloween decoration?  Don't toss it, compost it.  Dry straw is a great material to aerate, because it tends to create lots of passageways for air to get into the pile. Just as with hay, wet down the straw before adding to pile. Straw is a "brown".  Straw that has been used as bedding material for horses breaks down more quickly.

Hint:  wet down hay & straw well before adding to the pile.

  • KITCHEN WASTES:  Kitchen wastes are readily available to put in the bin.  It just takes a little thought and preparation to collect the scraps. All fruit and vegetable peels or rinds, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, and such are great in the compost. Theses items are in nitrogen. 

Mix kitchen wastes in well as not to attract unwanted free-loader visitors to the bin.  Don't include meat scraps, fatty food wastes, milk products, and bones.

  • LEAVES:  Who doesn't have a yard full of fall leaves?  The compost bin is a good place for them.  Fallen leaves make a great compost ingredient. Just as with grass clippings, make sure they are mixed will in the bin.  Leaves have a tendency to mat down.  This limits the airflow - limited airflow - a stinky mess. Word of caution: some leaves can raise the soil pH level. 

Ash, cottonwood, and poplar leaves are examples.  So if you soil is alkaline, composting these leaves may not be beneficial.  Leaves can be classified as either "brown" or "green" during their life cycle.  Fallen, dead, dry leaves are "browns"; living green leaves are "greens".

  • PINE NEEDLES:   Pine needles should be chopped up or shredded before tossed in the bin.  They decompose slowly, even when chopped.   Large quantities of pine needles will acidify your compost.  This acidify compost is great to mix in alkaline soils.  It pays to know your soil's pH level.
  • WEEDS AND OTHER GARDEN WASTES:  The activity of a gardener generates lots of compost material.  Every time you pull a weed, trim a tree or bush, clear spent plants, etc.  you have compost material. 

In order to discourage sprouting in your bin, place wastes with seed heads in a plastic bag for a week or two before adding to your bin.  Green weeds are "greens", while dead brown weeds are "brown".

Wood Ashes from a wood burning stove or fireplace:   these ashes can safely be added to the compost pile. Because ashes are alkaline, use in limited quantities.  It is recommend that you add no more than 2 gallon-sized buckets-full (total) to a 3'x3'x3' pile. They are especially high in potassium.

  • WOOD CHIPS AND SAWDUST:  Wood products are "browns". Sawdust generally breaks down quickly in an active compost pile. Thoroughly mix sawdust into the pile or use very thin layers. Wood chips are good in the compost too, but they will decay more slowly. 

I prefer to use wood chips as a mulch rather than putting them in the compost.  It goes without saying that you don't use  chemically-treated wood.

Quick Guide to Toss These in the Compost Items:
All-natural fiber , (cotton, wool, linen, etc)   Grain products such as cereal, bread, flour, oatmeal, or rice   Rabbit and guinea pig bedding
Baked goods, rice or grains   Grass cuttings in layers  (non-chemically treated)   Straw bedding from horse stalls
Coffee grounds and filters   Napkins  (shredded)   Sawdust (not from teated timber)
Dead insects   Newspapers (shredded)   Soft stems
Dead plants - Thoroughly dry out and remove seed heads before adding   Nut shells   Tea leaves and tea bags
Dryer lint   Paper towels (shredded)   Used vegetable cooking oil
Egg shells (crushed)   Pine needles   Vacuum cleaner dust
Fallen leaves (in layers)   Potting soil and dead plants   Vegetable wastes and food scraps  such as corn cobs (broken up), rotten  veggies, seeds and cores
Fruit  wastes such as all peels, melon rinds, rotten fruits, seeds and cores       Weeds - Thoroughly dry out persistent weeds and remove seed heads before adding
Toss in the Garbage:
  • CHEMICALLY-TREATED WOOD PRODUCTSLeave out all by-products of chemically-treated lumber or timber out of your pile.  An example is pressure-treated wood used for decks, fences or outdoor furniture.   Pressure-treated wood contain nasty stuff like arsenic, chromium and copper.  these are definitely not good in the compost.  Also avoid railroad ties which are treated with creosote or 'penta' preservative.

Coal Ashes:   Coal ashes will usually contain high levels of both sulfur and iron.  Excess amounts of these "nutrients" can damage your plants.   Further, charcoal briquettes from your Sunday Bar-B-Que won't break down.  There is no reason the add them

  • DISEASED PLANTS:  Although plant disease organisms can be killed in the heat of the compost, you can never be sure that all the diseased material is sterilized.  Better to safe than sorry.  Your best served by tossing diseased plant material in the garbage.  there is no reason to chance re-infecting your prize garden.

  • MEAT, BONES, AND FATTY FOOD WASTES:  These materials are very attractive to pests (in an urban setting, this could mean rats...). In addition, fatty food wastes can be very slow to break down, because the fat can exclude the air that composting microbes need to do their work.

  • PERNICIOUS WEEDS:  Morning glory/bindweed, sheep sorrel, ivy, several kinds of grasses, and some other plants can re-sprout from their roots and/or stems in the compost pile. Just when you thought you had them all chopped up, you'd actually helped them to multiply! Don't compost these weeds unless they are completely dead and dry (you may want to leave them in a sunny place for a couple of weeks before composting). Remember also that composting weeds that have gone to seed will create weeds in next year's garden, unless a very hot pile temperature can be maintained to kill the seeds.

  • PET  FECES:  You may be tempted to add dog and cat feces.   DON'T!   Pet feces can carry diseases.  You certainly don't want to take the chance of spreading an infection.


Stop Sign

Quick Guide - DON'T Toss These in the Compost Items:
Ashes are inert and slow the composting process.   Diseased and insect-infested plants   Meat Products such as chicken, beef, bones, fish, luncheon meat, pork
Ashes from the barbeque   Fish   Pet droppings can harbor diseases (especially the droppings of cats and dogs)
Bones   Glossy magazines   Sand
Cat Litter   Grease or fat   Sanitary Pads & Tampons
Chemical Products such as fertilizers, pesticides, chemical cleansers   Invasive weeds   Shavings and sawdust from treated wood, and other chemical-laden materials, will introduce contaminants.
Clay, gravel or rocks   Large branches   Waxed paper
Cooked and prepared foods   Materials treated with insecticides, herbicides or other chemicals   Weeds with seeds or runners may grow when you spread your compost
Dairy Products including milk, yogurt, cheese   Metals, plastic, glass dah, they don't decay    

Joy Blooms . . . Compost It!

Everything you ever wanted to know about composting:  Let's get Started   
Basic How-To    Tip & Tricks
    FAQ     Build a Bin     What's In?     Brown & Green    
Now What?     What's went Wrong    Unusual Compost Items      Say It Ain't So     

Further Composting Information Internet Links:

Joy Blooms . . . in the garden!

Gardening in Lubbock    Month-by-Month   Out Door Projects    Butterfly Gardens     It's for the Birds    Gardening Lessons from Daddy       
        Compost It!     Gardening Tips /Design     Veggies Anyone?    Gardening Links       Seed/Bulb Resources  My Garden Photo Albums

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